Brad Hassig was swimming with his 10-year-old twin sons and their 11-year-old neighbor on a Tuesday afternoon when he began to drown.
While his kids were playing, Hassig, 46, was doing underwater breathing exercises in his family’s backyard pool in Mountain Brook, Alabama. He would go underwater and hold his breath for about a minute at a time before resurfacing, as a calming technique.
Father’s Twin Sons And Neighbor Boy Save His Life Using CPR They Saw From The Movies
“It’s relaxing. I love doing breathing exercises,” said Hassig, adding that it’s a ritual he does often, and he has never had problems in the past. “I just like the peace of being underwater.”
But Hassig, who was the only adult home at the time, lost consciousness at about 4 p.m. on June 14. And while it is not clear just how long he was under, the boys noticed something was off. His son Christian put on his goggles and saw that his father was slumped over on his side, lying lifeless at the bottom of the pool.
“I could see his face was starting to turn blue,” said Christian. “It was very scary.”
“Daddy’s not okay,” he remembered yelling, between tears. From that point on, “we were just focusing on saving our dad’s life.”
He and his twin brother, Bridon, and their neighbor, Sam Ebert, collectively pulled Hassig — who weighs about 185 pounds — up by his shoulders and brought him over to the pool steps. Their father’s phone was locked, and none of the boys had phones of their own, so Christian ran to the street to find help.
At the same time, Bridon began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his father. While he had never done it before, Bridon had recently seen the technique in two movies he has watched several times with his brother: “Hook” and “The Sandlot” — which both feature CPR scenes.
And while he was “overwhelmed and panicked” in the moment, Bridon said, the movies instantly came to mind. He decided to try what he had seen in the movies, starting by leaning his dad’s head back, then doing chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth.
“I just knew I need to do this,” he said, adding that shortly after he began doing mouth-to-mouth, Hassig woke up, and instantly coughed up foam, blood, and water.
“It was probably the most emotional time of my life,” Bridon said.
Just minutes later, paramedics arrived, as Christian had flagged down a driver on the street and called 911. A neighbor who is a cardiologist heard the sirens and raced over. He helped check Hassig’s pulse and move him from the pool steps to the deck.
As Hassig’s eyes opened after the distressing event, “it was just chaos,” he said, adding that his wife was at work. “There were people everywhere.”
He then was transferred in an ambulance to Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala., where doctors diagnosed him with hypoxia (low oxygen levels in the body’s tissues), pulmonary edema (a buildup of fluid in the lungs), and shortness of breath.
His injuries were reportedly caused by the extended time period Hassig spent without oxygen, and he is expected to make a full recovery, he said. Hassig added that the incident was not triggered by an underlying condition.
Doctors informed him it was a result of his heart rate and blood pressure dropping rapidly underwater. But thankfully, after being monitored in the cardiovascular intensive care unit for 24 hours, Hassig was released to continue his recovery at home.
Hassig is still recovering mentally and physically from the traumatic ordeal, sharing terrible for what he put his sons and their friend through.
And while Hassig said he will no longer be doing underwater breathing exercises, he decided to hop back in the pool only a week after his scary incident.
“I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to show my boys that you’re brave, you face your fears, and you go on,” he said. As soon as he dunked his head, the kids felt comfortable swimming again, he said. “I’m glad I did that.”
“The boys are heroes for what they did,” said Hassig, who also has a 14-year-old daughter. “My 10-year-old untrained boys and their 11-year-old untrained friend, they didn’t freeze.”
In addition to the boys’ brave rescue that day, Hassig has also been heartened by the overwhelming support he has received from others.
“It’s humbling that your kids saved your life, but then you see friends, neighbors, and the community. People brought meals and prayers and get-well cards,” he said. “To see that people care, that’s been amazing.”
“It’s really important because you never know if that could happen to you,” Christian said. “It helps to know what to do.”
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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